Animal Track Identification

Identifying Animal Footprints and Paw Prints

May 15, 2017

Dog Prints


Animal tracks and footprints can tell you what animals are roaming around your backyard or eating your garden vegetables. See our animal track pictures to learn how to identify animal tracks and track animals!

You don’t have to be in the jungle or deep forest to be an animal tracker. Tracks are often as close as your backyard or garden.

How to Track Animals and Identify Animal Tracks

Tracking is something that you learn by doing. Get out there and look! Here are a few tips:

  • Animal tracks are easiest to find in mud, soft garden soil, sand, and snow.
  • Study the ground closely. Get down on your hands and knees. Note the size of the track and whether it shows claw marks. You may wish to make a sketch.
  • Track early in the morning or late in the day when shadows make prints easier to see.
  • Watch for animal droppings called scat. The scat will also help you track the animal. If it’s dry all the way through, the tracks may have been left a while ago. Scat can also tell you if you’re tracking a vegetarian or a meat eater.
  • If you lose the trail, search in a circle around the track until you pick up the trail again.
  • The most important tip of all: don’t get lost!

animal tracks

Do you have animal tracks in your garden? See how to control these common critters: deermicemolesrabbitsraccoonsskunkssquirrelsvoles, and woodchucks or groundhogs

Have you seen any animal tracks in your backyard lately? Tell us about it below!

Reader Comments

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Strange track found in a Colorado

I was out rock hunting on the river bank of the Rio Grande with my sister and boyfriend. They were fly fishing while I was looking around and I came across a very strange track in the mud. It kind of freaks me out. Where can I submit a photo?

Animal track ID

Hi, there! You can submit a photo of the tracks to, and we can try to identify it for you or at least narrow down the possibilities. Thanks!

Grey Wolf

You might want to check those prints. Those don't look anything like a wolf print. I mean, not even remotely close. Those look to be the prints of some small varmint.

Correct on the wolf prints... they are wrong

The wolf prints listed above are not wolf prints. Wolf basically look like big dog.

unknown foot prints in my house help me to identify the animal

i found unknown foot prints in my house this animal has 5 fingers 3 in front and 2 behind. i am very afraid of from this because the print was very heavy approximately 1 inch behind on earth, i have a picture of foot print how can i show it to you?

Animal track in snow

Straight line, some prints 3-feet apart, each as big as human boot
Looks like three-claw, but center one is shortest . I have pictures

Strange animal prints in snow

I found the weirdes animal prints in the snow this morning and would like to know what kind of animal where those. I have two pictures.

what are these???

Tracks in snow about 1 1/2 feet apart: in front, 2 large ovals, with 2 smaller ovals behind, one behind the other. I couldn't see any claws, but I was looking down from my window, one story down, in snow that was beginning to melt. Any ideas???

Tracks in my yard show 3 long claws about 4” long

Do you know what they are?


Most animals have four or five toes. It’s generally birds that have 3 claws. Turkeys have three claws measuring 4 inches long.


After we started seeing a variety of tracks at our cabin, we put out trail cameras. The cameras have captured raccoons, deer, turkey, feral cats, skunk and opossum. They have also captured bobcats, bears, hogs, cougars and one coyote.
Rain can wash out tracks, the ground can be hard or frozen; if you really want to know what is there, buy a trail camera.
I have 2 warnings; the cameras are addictive and you might not enjoy seeing what is there at night.

trail camera

The Editors's picture

Wow—what wonders you see! You share your environment with quite a menagerie! Watching the night activity may be, as you say, not so enjoyable; our thought ran more along the lines of encountering it, if you (anyone) venture outside after dark!

Stinky Skunks

My Mother-in-law said she once got sprayed by a skunk and they had to bury the dress she was wearing cause it wouldn't come clean! I myself have seeing a live skunk on my bucket list, also a porcupine.

Paw prints in back yard

I've been trying to figure out what paw prints we had in the snow in our back yard- they were about the size of my hand (6-7 inches, which is why I noticed them- they were bigger than anything I'd seen before), with a round-ish base and 4 oval toes, evenly spread. They also stopped at the fence, so I assume whatever it was jumped over (it would have been too big to go under, I'm guessing). We live about an hour north of Toronto, and the area is pretty green (greenest in Ontario award). The closest thing I've seen online has been a wolf print, but there were no nail marks in the snow...

What is this?

We found a paw print measuring 5 inches across at the side of our house. Where can I get a better opinion as to what this thing is? We have free range fowl. Something pulled a huge chicken through the fence, leaving blood and feathers. That happened on the side of our yard where we have a donkey and a mule. I thought donkeys deterred small game.

animal track ID

The Editors's picture

We’re sorry that you are having trouble with an animal getting to your chickens! What that predator is depends on where you live. The next time you see a print, check to see how many toes are showing, if there are claw impressions [cat family, for example, usually do not have their claws out unless the terrain is slippery; dog family (coyote, fox, etc) often show claw marks], and the overall vertical and horizontal measurements. If there is more than one print, see if you can tell how the animal traveled–if the paws were one after the other, or sort of staggered, etc. Some animals sometimes overlap a hind foot on a front foot print; occasionally, this can be mistaken for a huge single paw print instead of 2 prints one on top of the other. If the print was truly a single print, and was 5 inches across on not-too-soft ground (not mud or snow, which might exaggerate the measurements), and the animal was the one that was interested in your chickens, then it might possibly be a bear, whose adult paw prints can be anywhere between 3.5 to 8 or more inches, depending on species. However, usually bears would be more destructive–just plowing through a fence rather than pulling something through it. Bears do sometimes go after chickens, or more often, chicken feed. Make sure that any chicken feed is covered so as to discourage them and other animals. Dogs, cats, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, fishers, etc. may go after chickens, but a 5-inch paw print is too large for those animals – except perhaps a large breed of domestic dog, which can, depending on the breed and individual, have a paw print of up to about 4.75 inches (in certain substrates, especially if a paw might sink into it, the print might appear larger). If the chicken snatching is unrelated to the paw print, it might be a hawk, owl, or other bird of prey. Sometimes they sit on a fence and keep an eye out for meals, but their prints are much different, and not large. Hope this helps!

track Id

I basically live in a cornfield in Nebraska and I keep ending up with cats missing and they found these tracks and I was hoping to get help besides gentrifying them please thank you kindly

Wonder whose footprint is this?

I found these footprints on a beach...i worried it is crocodile's..

what made the track shown in the picture

I am wondering what animal made the picture shown at the beginning of the webpage. I am guessing it's just a regular dog? There is curiously no caption or other information on this.

Dog Tracks

Yes, they are dog tracks!

how do I send a pic of some tracks?

How do I send a pic of some tracks for ID?


I’m afraid we no longer offer photo uploads to our Web site. We hope, however, the tracks displayed point our readers in the right direction.

I live in Kentucky, and found

I live in Kentucky, and found huge prints in my barn, two days prior our neighbor witnessed a mountain lion trying to take down a cow. I thought there weren't mountain lions in KY?

Roundish, 9 pads

We woke up to odd paw prints in the snow this morning. There seem to be nine little pads--a row of 4, another row of 4, then an only slightly larger single pad. Total maybe 2 inches or so. Any ideas?

animal prints

I found an imprint in the ice of a lake, 8 pad indentations, with the largest on the left which was oval, the rest almost round. Do you know what it could be?

parallal prints

Thank-you for your assistance.!

parrellel tracks

thank-you, does being at a high elevation change your opinion? thereabouts of zero degrees F. there are mink in the area, at the river, but, the river is across a bridge, across a highway, and about a 1/2 a mile away. I've seen the gait of those beautiful creatures, but, but only when they are walking and then they tend to drag their tails. I wish I had a picture, so that you or others that know what you are talking about could help more. I have never seen anything like it and it really peaks my attention. the tracks would have been perfectly lined up with the back feet into the front holes, how often does that happen? sorry, no detail of foot print, nails or pads, just seemingly round. thank-you again, for your knowledge, couldn't find anything like it, will keep my eye out for more. At least now I can sleep, try to sleep, at night now.


Hello again! A high elevation might narrow down the possibilities a bit, but it will also depend on the state/province where you live. For more information, if you are in the U.S., you might check out the Web site of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for your area. They sometimes have pages about the wildlife in your location. Then you might be able to narrow it down a bit further. Also check out field guides on animal tracks. The one I have says that in deep snow, meadow voles and shrews tend to do a direct register lope (the author calls it a 2x2, where the back feet exactly fall into the spot where the front feet have been). The weasels can also use a 2x2 lope in deep snow; some species, such as the lesser weasel or ermine (aka short-tailed weasel) have more fur on their paws than others, which may obscure the details of the print a bit.

print of an animal

found this print in snow, no picture,. (side-by-side, constant distance of about 10", guessing 4 legged: even though only 2 side-by-side,(: : : :). No, No sign of 2nd or hind legs in in any of the small tracks (print is seemingly circular and maybe the size of a silver dollar). Guessing chest width to be around 4". absolutely no sign of tale or anything dragging between tracks. Made in snow, no camera at time, started to be windy, after dark, 8 " deep snow, slight depression, no belly rub, must be very light weighted.

snow track

Side-by-side tracks, including in deep snow, where the back paws land on the same spot as the front paw (direct register) can be made by a loping or bounding gait of certain rodents (such as rats, shrews, voles) or weasels, as I understand it. Or a bipedal hop, such as by a kangaroo rat (if you live an an area where they live). Hope this helps!